Christian educational institutions to be closed Friday

August 28th, 2008 - 1:59 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 28 (IANS) All Christian educational institutions in the country will be closed Friday to protest violence against the community in Orissa, where several churches have been burnt and at least 11 people killed in revenge for the murder of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader last week. The church network - including the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the Evangelical Fellowship of India and the National Council of Churches in India - has written a letter to all Christian organisations in the country on the issue.

“Communal organisations have taken the law into their hands in Orissa. What is at stake is not only the freedom of conscience of a minority community but India’s secular democracy,” the letter said.

“The destructive and divisive communal forces have to be stopped. We want this message to go across to people, that is why we are closing our educational institutions in deep sorrow and anguish. We hope parents become aware of the implications of the incidents in Orissa,” it added.

The All India Christian Council (AICC) has also planned a sit-in outside the Orissa House in the capital Friday.

“The central government has failed to check violence in Orissa. It is only after five days of violence and atrocities on Christians that extra forces are being rushed,” AICC Secretary Public Affairs Sam Paul told IANS.

The state has been on the boil since Saturday evening when Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a member of the VHP’s central advisory committee, and four others were killed by suspected Maoist guerrillas at his Jalespata ashram in Kandhamal.

Radical Hindu groups in Orissa blamed Christians for the crime and alleged that Christians killed Saraswati because he was opposing religious conversion. Christian organisations deny these allegations.

Since then, 11 people have been killed in the state, 10 in Kandhamal and a woman in Bargarh district who was burnt when the crowds attacked an orphanage. The mobs are burning churches and homes, despite shoot-at-sight orders.

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